Your student is changing fast. Chances are this isn’t a surprise. Their classes are changing. Their friends are changing. Their bodies are definitely changing. But one change you may not see as quickly are the changes that are happening in your student’s brain. As our students approach puberty, their brains are being physically rewired to function less like a child and more like an adult. New connections are forming. Old ones are collapsing. Parts of the brain are being reorganized. And with all of that activity, it’s no surprise that they may experience occasional “outages” or glitches in their judgment, their memory, and their emotional control. That means…
your straight-A scholar may suddenly forget their homework.
your sweet, quiet child may now have teenage emotional outbursts.
your reasonable, responsible student may have a few mindboggling lapses in judgment.
When that happens, our first reaction may be to panic and wonder, What went wrong here? But, most of the time, nothing is really wrong. Our students’ brains are simply under construction.
In their book, Teen Stages, authors Ken and Elizabeth Mellor describe this as a “cognitive rebirth” beginning around age 13 and continues into young adulthood. That means during middle school and high school, your student may show some behaviors reminding you a lot of their toddler and early elementary years. And…it’s perfectly normal.
While no two children are the same, and development is surely going to look different and take different amounts of time for each one, it may be helpful to look at the stages Mellor outlines to see where your student fits and what may be coming next.
As you check out the table below, find which descriptions best match your student and read to see what maybe coming in the next year. No matter what phase of rewiring your student is in, it’s important to remember that it’s only a phase. Enjoy them exactly as they are today and know that you play a key role, even during the later stages, in guiding them toward what’s next.
Sometimes the scariest thing about our students’ wiring is that it comes from us. It’s tempting to focus all our attention on the traits in our students that make us cringe—especially when we know they learned it from us. But those aren’t the only traits we’ve passed down. If you think about it, there are also some pretty great things in your students’ wiring that came from you.
This week, take notice of one positive trait in your student that they inherited from you. (This can be something you can do as a step parent, adoptive parent or foster parent as well. Genetics may be responsible for some traits, but observation and learned behavior play an important role, too!)
Maybe you’re both good at math. Maybe your son is starting to show some of your great conversational skills. Or maybe your daughter is wired to be competitive, just like you. No matter what it is, pay attention to the positive traits passed on to your student. Then, copy the section below. Fill it out and leave it somewhere for your student this week.
ONE THING I’VE NOTICED ABOUT YOU LATELY IS THAT YOU’RE…
THAT’S A GREAT TRAIT TO HAVE AND IT’S ONE THAT HAS HELPED ME OVER AND OVER. I’M PROUD OF THE PERSON YOU’RE BECOMING.